Source: “Play Bridge with the Aces” by Ira Corn

Mike Lawrence of the aces carned a star award for his play of today’s hand. The hand was played in an early round of the Spingold tournament.

Study only the bidding, the lead and the North-South hands, (place your thumbs over the East-West hand). Then develop a plan of play and compare it with Mike’s to see if you would have also earned an award.

Dealer East Both Vul

Q 10
A Q J 4
K J 10 6
J 7 5
J 8 7
9 6
A Q 5 4
A 10 9 8
West North East South
Pass Pass
Pass 1 Pass 2NT
Pass 3NT Pass Pass
Pass

Opening Lead 4

The winning play is to refuse the heart finesse. If the heart finesse is taken, East wins and the hand is defeated because declarer can take only eight tricks (1 spade, 4 diamonds, 1 club and only 2 hearts).

Mike reasoned: Obviously West underled the A-K of spades. If West led from a five cards suit, the hand could not be made unless West also had the K (1 spade, 4 diamonds, 3 heart and a club). However, if West had five spades and the K, why he not opened the bidding after two passed?

If West had only four spades and the K, them all plays would win. (West could not have both club honors because of his failure open the bidding.)

Mike concluded that his best chance for success requires an even division of spade suit and either or both club honors in the East hand. Aside from the inferences drawn from the bidding, the probability of developing three club tricks was better than developing three heart tricks.

Mike’s reasoning guided him to the winning line of play. He rejected the enticing heart finesse and instead close the double club finesse.

He won the spade queen in dummy and played the J, allowing it to ride to West’s K.

East-West could now take three more spade tricks, but Lawrence made his contract. He took one spade, one heart, four diamonds, and three clubs. (The fall of the club queen made the repeated finesse unnecessary.).

Mike applied several basic principles. He analyzed all available information deduced from the bidding. He counted his tricks and selected the plan most likely to succeed that was consistent with the bidding.

The complete deal:

Q 10
A Q J 4
K J 10 6
J 7 5
A K 5 4
10 5
7 3 2
K 6 4 3
9 6 3 2
K 8 7 3 2
9 8
Q 2
J 8 7
9 6
A Q 5 4
A 10 9 8